Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Rapunzel's Lament

My new haircut makes me look like the love child of Harpo Marx and Minnie Mouse.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Is This a Dagger Which I See Before Me?

Six weeks ago, I was diagnosed with bursitis in both hips. Actually, I diagnosed it myself; the doctor confirmed it. You can learn just about anything online. It made me feel old, and even worse, it hurt. I've been doing physical therapy all this time but it hasn't helped, so I went back to see my orthopedist again today. He gave me cortisone shots in both hips, which is not a pleasure-seeking procedure. When I descended from the ceiling, he snapped, "I need you to lie still." I apologized while thinking how wrong it was that I should be apologizing to someone who was hurting me. I can understand why people crack and spill secrets under torture. He even had the nerve to say, "It didn't hurt me a bit" afterward. I think his sense of humor must be a great source of comfort to him. He claimed the shots hurt so much because my bursa are so inflamed. As if pain weren't bad enough, "bursa" sounds like a hideous garment Muslim women have to wear.

Bursae are fluid-containing sacs located between tendons and bones to cushion friction between moving structures, like brake pads on a car. When a bursa becomes inflamed, it's called bursitis.

He told me to further curtail my physical activity, like breathing, but I forgot to ask if I should stop physical therapy so I tried to call his office after I got home. They have a system similar to the 7 levels of hell protecting them, and it was impossible to get through to a real live person. I'm not sure he was one, anyway. He seemed like a wind-up doll. I heard him greet his next patient with the exact same faux-cheery tone and phrase with which he greeted me. It was one step up from a barker at the county fair bellowing "NEXT." He was practically rubbing his hands in gleeful anticipation. That poor woman had no idea what she was in for.

Meanwhile, I have left messages for both him and his assistant, neither of whom has called me back. It's like trying to get an audience with God, maybe harder.

It is no accident that the word "medieval" as in medieval torture device suggests evil medical practitioners. And yes, I do hold a grudge. Thank you for asking.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Princess Ariel is Alive and Well and Living in Israel

Mermaids have been seen off the coast of Israel. There have been so many recent sightings that the town of Kiryat Yam is offering a $1 million reward to the first person who produces a good photograph of one. The earliest encounter occurred when several people saw a woman lying in the sand. As they approached, she leaped into the water and disappeared, flashing her dolphin-like tail in the sunset.

Mermaids have held great fascination for many societies since at least 1000 BC, when the Assyrian goddess Atargatis fell in love with a mortal shepherd but accidentally killed him. (Tails are clumsy.) She jumped into a lake to drown herself but instead, her form changed to that of a human above the waist and a fish below. According to Greek legend, Alexander the Great's sister, Thassalonike, also turned into a mermaid when she died and patrolled the Aegean Sea, terrorizing sailors as she demanded to know if Alexander was still alive. If the unfortunate mortal responded with anything other than "He lives and still rules," she transformed herself into a Gorgon and destroyed the ship and everyone aboard. Mermaids appear in The Arabian Nights and in the folklore of many cultures, often as lethal seductresses luring men to their deaths in the deep.

In 1608, the English navigator Henry Hudson was skirting the polar ice off the arctic coast of Russia while attempting to find a northeast route to the spice markets of China. Near the coast of Nova Zembla, Hudson's entire crew saw a mermaid next to their ship, and his log entry of that June day described her in detail as having the back and breasts of a woman and the tail of a porpoise. Six years later, another English sea captain, John Smith, spotted a mermaid in the Caribbean, "swimming about with all possible grace." At first he thought it was a woman until she flipped over and he saw that below the waist she was a fish. She had long green hair which he remarked was not unattractive.

Christian missionaries in Africa were distressed when they discovered in 1700 that native Angolans were catching mermaids and eating them. The discovery raised a nagging theological question: Since mermaids are at least half-human, should acts of cannibalism against them be punishable by the Church? The desire to find an authentic mermaid extended into the "Age of Reason" and numerous European publications featured accounts of sightings and contact with them. In 1739, a Scottish magazine carried a report that the crew of the ship Halifax, short on rations in the East Indies, had captured and eaten several mermaids which moaned "with great sensibility." Undeterred and ravenous, they ate them anyway and later stated that the flesh tasted like veal. (Not chicken.)

In 1830, a woman in the Outer Hebrides saw the fish-like form of "a woman in miniature" turning somersaults a few feet away from her at the shoreline. The creature splashed away as people attempted to catch her, but a boy struck her in the back with a rock. Days later, the mermaid's dead body washed ashore. The dainty corpse attracted a large crowd. A careful examination was performed and documented by local officials. Everyone agreed that it was a mermaid and therefore partly human, so she was buried in a shroud and coffin.

I have always been enchanted with mermaids, and see no logical reason why they would not exist. Many of the creatures with which we share the earth are unusual by human standards, but no less real than we are. If one believes that there is life in other galaxies, it seems perfectly reasonable that they would not necessarily follow the form we consider human. It is also true that we have not explored every inch of our own planet, especially the fathomless oceans, and we can only assume that there are still unresolved mysteries which will continue to enthrall us for as long as our own species endures.

My father was the keeper of the Eddystone Light,
He slept with a mermaid one fine night
From this union there came three
A porpoise and a porgy and the other was me.

Yo ho ho, the wind blows free,
Oh, for a life on the rolling sea!

One night as I was a-trimming the glim
Singing a verse from the evening hymn
A voice on the starboard shouted "Ahoy!"
And there was my mother, a-sitting on a buoy.


"Oh, what has become of my children three?"
My mother then she asked of me.
One was exhibited as a talking fish and
The other was served in a chafing dish.


Then the phosphorous flashed in her seaweed hair.
I looked again, and me mother wasn't there
A voice came a-echoing out through the night
"To Hell with the keeper of the Eddystone Light!"

Friday, August 14, 2009

Blowin' in the Wind

Rock legend Bob Dylan, one of a handful of performers who defined the 60's, was accosted by two young police officers in New Jersey who demanded to see his ID.

He was on tour with Willie Nelson and John Mellencamp and decided to kill time before the evening's performance by walking around a neighborhood near the shore. Someone called the police to report that a man was wandering around the low-income area, and they approached him.

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," he said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

The second policeman, who had also never heard of him, asked for identification. He said he wasn't carrying any so they took him to his hotel, where several tour staff vouched for him. The officers stated afterward that he couldn't have been nicer to them, which is not surprising as he was always known to have little ego.

It's hard to imagine an icon of a generation like Bob Dylan being unrecognized. Even in 2009, you'd think his face would serve as his ID with anyone over the age of twenty. I've heard it said that if Jesus came back today, he'd be arrested for loitering. Apparently this also applies to rock stars of former generations. What is the world coming to?

"The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind,
The answer is blowin in the wind."